The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 7 of
Colon & Rectal Cancer: A Comprehensive Guide for
Patients & Families by Lorraine Johnston, copyright 2000 by
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. For book orders/information, call
(800) 998-9938. Permission is granted to print and distribute this
excerpt for noncommercial use as long as the above source is
included. The information in this article is meant to educate and
should not be used as an alternative for professional medical care.
Admission will start with paperwork, phone calls, questions about next of
kin, phone and TV service preferences, attachment of a plastic ID bracelet,
and directions to the correct room and floor. Have copies of all insurance
paperwork and medical records ready.
After admission, a volunteer may be assigned to stay with you briefly
until you've arrived in your room and become oriented, especially if you're
Once you have arrived in your room, the nursing staff will take control
and prepare you for whatever care you will need. They'll check vital signs
such as pulse and temperature, and may start an intravenous line (IV) for
administering drugs, and may help you with one final enema if your surgery
is later that day or early the next day. You'll probably find that nurses
will return a hundredfold any small effort you make to be friendly and
Ask now about the meal menus, as there is usually a delay in getting
meal preferences to newly admitted patients.
If you're being admitted for most procedures, you may be sharing a room
with someone else. If you have rectal cancer and you're scheduled to be
treated with a radioactive substance, you'll most likely be given a private
room immediately or very soon.
The nursing staff is the first group you're likely to encounter in your
hospital stay, but they're just one group of a confusing array of medical
personnel you'll meet.
Note that you may refuse care administered by any staff member with whom
you don't feel comfortable, and may ask for a more experienced person to
attend to you.
Hospital nurses will provide most of your care:
- Nurses' aides and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) will help wash you,
help you in and out of bed, make your bed, and perform simple nursing tasks
such as checking your pulse and temperature. LPNs, but not nurses' aides,
have completed vocational training and may provide medication.
- Registered nurses (RNs) have earned a college degree in nursing and
passed a licensing examination. RNs are able to provide more complex and
critical medical care than LPNs, such as changing wound dressings,
communicating with doctors, starting IVs, and administering IV
- Nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists are RNs who have
undertaken extensive additional training and are licensed to provide many
of the same services that doctors provide. In some states they are able to
prescribe drugs under the auspices of a physician. In some hospitals or
clinical settings they may perform simple surgeries and procedures, such as
- Head nurses and nurse managers are in charge of other nurses, entire
floors, or patient centers. Although all nurses now face the additional
burden of administrative work that deprives them of time they prefer to
spend with their patients, head nurses and nurse managers usually handle
administrative issues exclusively, and seldom provide patient care unless
staffing is inadequate.
- Enterostomal therapists are nurses specially trained to help those who
will be having a stoma surgically created. A stoma is a temporary or
permanent opening in the abdominal wall to allow waste to exit the body.
Your surgeon will discuss with you whether your surgical procedure will
include temporary or permanent ostomy.
In teaching hospitals, you'll encounter the full spectrum of doctors in
various stages of training. In some community hospitals, you'll encounter
just residents and attending physicians. In other community hospitals that
have agreements with nearby medical schools, you may find an amalgam of the
two systems. Doctors in various stages of training include:
- Medical students who have completed four years of college and are
undertaking four additional years of medical school. Medical students do
not treat patients, although they may accompany an attending physician on
rounds, and the physician may elicit their opinions.
- Interns, also called first-year residents, or postgraduate year-one
students, have completed four years of medical school and are in the first
year of three to six years of primary specialty training. They will not
give you care unless supervised by much more experienced personnel, such as
the attending physician or a more experienced resident, but that
supervision may be distant. If you prefer not to be treated by an intern,
- House officers (once called residents) may be postgraduate year-two
students, postgraduate year-three students, and so on. These physicians are
still receiving primary training that can last from three to six years,
depending on the field.
- Fellows, or teaching fellows, have completed their six years' primary
training, and have undertaken three years of additional training in a
- The attending physician is in charge of all fellows, residents and
interns. In university hospitals, she is likely to be a faculty member. In
community hospitals, she is hired to oversee patient care in her area of
specialty based upon her reputation in the medical community.
I was in the hospital for chemotherapy and a very nervous looking medical
type--student? intern?--tried to access my port and couldn't. After several
tries the sweat ran down his face and he gave up.
Later that evening another guy in a white coat showed up. With my newfound
bravery, I asked him, "Do you know how to access one of these things?
Have you ever done it before?"
"Not only have I accessed them," he said, "I've installed
He then proceeded to put the needle in with one quick jab--no pain, no
anxiety. So much for my insisting on knowing who knows what they are
The most common surgery for colorectal cancer is laparotomy, an incision
into the abdomen and pelvis to remove some or all of the colon or rectum,
perhaps nearby organs that might be entangled with cancerous tissue, one or
more lymph nodes in the abdomen or pelvis, and a portion of the liver if it
has been invaded. Some procedures to remove part or all of the colon or
rectum require creation of a temporary or permanent opening in the abdomen,
called a stoma, through which feces can exit.
Other surgeries for colorectal cancer include:
- Rejoining of the intestine and removal of a temporary stoma.
- Removal of abnormal tubes called fistulas that form between two organs
as a result of disease or of the healing that follows some surgeries.
- Removal or bypassing of intestinal blockage.
- For rectal cancer, placement of tubes for later containment of
- Biopsies of lung, liver, or kidney, although these biopsies frequently
are done as outpatient procedures.
You'll receive extensive instructions, meet with the anesthesiologist,
and be monitored to ensure that no food is taken before surgery. Certain
tests such as CT scans, ultrasound, or MRI may be repeated to precisely
target tumors that need to be removed.
You'll meet with your surgeon to discuss what will be done during
surgery. If the surgeon is planning to create a stoma, your abdomen will be
examined to choose the best place for the stoma, taking into account the
natural folding of your skin, the kinds of physical activity you enjoy, the
part of the intestine that must be removed, and so on.
If you do not have a central catheter, an IV will be placed in your arm
or hand--perhaps upon admission, one day before surgery, or directly
Just before surgery
The risks associated with this surgery will be explained to you, and you
will be asked to sign a consent form.
If your surgery could affect the intestines in any way, you will be
asked to fast for 12 to 18 hours before surgery. You may be instructed to
use enemas or laxatives beforehand.
The site of the incision will be cleaned, shaved, and possibly marked
for proposed incision lines and stoma placement, if ostomy is anticipated.
If you're especially hairy, ask that a large area be shaved, including the
IV site on your arm. Sticky bandaging can hurt terribly when it's removed
if it pulls against hairs that have not been shaved.
If you're feeling nervous, ask for a sedative. The hour or two directly
before surgery are likely to be the most tense.
If you have had nausea associated with anesthesia in the past, tell the
You may be asked to walk into the surgical suite, or you may be taken in
on a rolling bed and shifted to the table. A rubber oxygen mask may be
placed over your face to check for fit. Your arms may be positioned on
armrests that facilitate giving medications by IV. A breathing tube will be
inserted from your mouth to your upper lungs, but this intubation will be
done after you're asleep, as may the insertion of a urinary catheter and a
nasogastric tube to keep your bladder and stomach empty. Coating your
eyelids with a lubricant while you're asleep to keep them from drying may
also be done, as presurgical medication may include drugs to dry body
fluids and reduce bleeding.
And now, the good part: you'll fall asleep, and you won't care what they
When you reawaken slowly, you'll be in the recovery room. You may notice
that you've acquired rubber support stockings or a series of tubes attached
to various body parts--but you won't care too much, because you'll be
groggy for several more hours. You may also notice that your hearing
returns first, well before sight does, and that you can remember odd or
humorous things the staff said as the surgery was ending.
You may feel some pain too, upon waking. Be sure to make clear your need
for pain medication as soon as you are awake and are experiencing pain, as
excessive pain can interfere with healing. The nursing staff will not
administer painkillers, though, until you're clearly awake, in order to
avoid overdosing a patient possibly still affected by anesthesia. This
means that, if you're feeling pain, you must tell them distinctly as soon
as you are able. Groaning, for example, is not considered a clear indicator
that you're awake. The nurses will attempt to get you to speak to be sure
you're awakening normally.
Eventually you'll be returned to your room, but the first 24 hours may
be a hazy memory if you've received general anesthesia. If you received a
sedative instead of general anesthesia, you'll be groggy, too, but it will
resolve more quickly than the aftereffects of general anesthesia.
Additional pain medication from day one will be given freely if you ask.
Most patients find they need a minimum of three days of strong pain
medication after abdominal, pelvic, or rectal surgery. Many hospitals now
use patient-controlled infusion (PCI) pumps, as they yield a more even
dose--about twenty microdoses per hour--than pain medication given by
tablet or IV. PCI pumps also will yield a limited amount of additional
medication if the patient pushes a button on the pump for this purpose.
Don't worry about overdose. The pump won't allow it. The minicomputer
within the pump counts the number of patient pushes so that the staff will
have a good idea of your need for pain medication.
If you feel any nausea at all, even transient nausea, tell the nursing
staff immediately. Vomiting, especially with a fresh incision, is a very
Use of anesthesia and painkillers slow the activity of various organs,
including the kidneys, urinary bladder, and intestinal tract. Your liquid
and solid waste will be monitored after surgery until the staff note that
your body systems are once again functioning as they should.
For the first few days after intestinal surgery, the contents of your
stomach will be emptied by a nasogastric pump to ensure that no food or
waste travels through the intestine. This is necessary because the
intestine is a sulky organ that stops working after even a small injury.
When the doctors and nurses begin to hear gas rumbling in the intestine,
they know that its natural contractions, called peristalsis, are resuming,
and that the nasogastric tube can be removed and a liquid diet attempted.
If liquids stay down and do not cause pain, fever, or abdominal swelling
(all signs of intestinal leakage, a serious complication of intestinal
surgery), soft foods such as Jell-O can be added. If this succeeds, solid
food can be introduced gradually.
Do the physical therapy, walking, coughing, or breathing exercises
you're given as soon and as often as possible. Exercise will help you heal
more quickly, and will reduce the chance of developing complications such
as the form of pneumonia that's associated with lying flat for long
periods. If you have an abdominal incision, hold a pillow against it for
comfort while you cough.
Max describes how successfully he has recovered from surgery:
I had a colon resection during which they took seven lymph nodes. A trace
of cancer was found in four. I had very little pain after surgery. In fact,
I played two rounds of golf five weeks after surgery. My doctor stressed
the fact that I should not be in pain. He encouraged me to walk immediately
after surgery and I was up to about one mile by the third week. I only
needed pain medication for about two to three days after I left the
hospital. Believe me, I am a weenie and would have been yelping if there
had been pain.
If, after surgery, you have trouble getting in and out of bed, ask the
nursing staff to tie something rope-like to the footboard so you can
experiment with using arm muscles instead of abdominal muscles to pull
yourself up and, especially, to lay yourself back down.
I sailed through the surgery and was home four days later. I had the
morphine pump, which worked wonderfully. Had an uneventful, rapid recovery.
The surgeon was pleased that the presurgical radiation therapy had
completely shrunk the tumor. Three weeks later I began six months of
Your surgeon will do his best to preserve tissue in the anus and rectum
that control bowel movements, but at times the location, aggressiveness, or
spread of the tumor makes sparing this tissue unsafe. Removal of all anal
and rectal tissue, and the supporting structures near the rectum and anus,
is called abdominoperineal resection. For rectal cancer, it might be the
only surgery needed; for certain colon cancers, it's generally considered
one half of the procedure, the other half being removal of part or all of
the colon through an opening in the abdomen.
Two techniques exist for repairing the damage caused by removing this
much tissue: a patching together of the tissue that remains, or packing the
open wound as if it were an abscess, and waiting for new tissue to
regenerate and fill the open area over several weeks. Today, most experts
believe that the open wound should be patched with surrounding tissue as
best as possible, instead of being left open to heal.
Because so much tissue is removed from such a sensitive surface area,
significant and lengthy discomfort may accompany recovery from this
surgery. If you're having difficulty sitting, be sure to tell the doctor
and the nursing staff so that adequate levels of pain medication are
supplied, and other aids are made available to you, such as sitz baths.
This pain may persist for some time after you've left the hospital. Some
colon or rectal cancer survivors consider this part of post-surgery
recovery more painful than an abdominal incision.
One survivor of ulcerative colitis that resulted in a stage I tumor
describes his surgical experience:
Before surgery I tried to stay in shape and exercise. I had an advantage
that I wasn't on any medication prior to the surgery. I think it made
recovery an easier experience for me. It probably made the surgery a more
successful one, too.
The days before surgery we came up with our own top 10+ list of
why I didn't need my colon. I had printed it to take with me to the
hospital. I realized I had forgotten it before we got out of the
neighborhood. I went back and got it. I gave it to the nurses as I was
going into surgery. That got a good laugh. I was pretty nervous. I was told
that they posted it down by the operating rooms. We managed to come up with
quite a few good and funny reasons why I wouldn't need the equipment I was
A funny thing happened while preparing for my stay in the hospital: I'd
decided to get a room in the deluxe wing of the hospital to make this
painful experience better. The fancy room had several advantages: private
nursing, fax machine, early American decor, but its best offering was the
gourmet menu--and I couldn't eat any of it! By the time I was able to eat,
it was time to discharge me.
The surgery went very well. No nerves were damaged, so my sex life is as
good now as it was before surgery. I didn't know that I had cancer until
they had biopsied the removed colon and all points in between. A tumor was
found contained in the interior colon wall. All the biopsies and
colonoscopies hadn't seen this particular location. The lymph nodes were
free of cancer. It's a good thing I had surgery when I did.
Sitting was a problem for a while, until the area where my rectum used to
be healed. I had painkillers for the first few days. The area that hurt the
most was my abdomen. My surgeon said I would feel like I had been hit by a
truck, and I did. I was sore and stiff in all the places they operated. It
took a couple of months before I was really moving normally. I was up and
ready to walk in the malls as soon as I got home. The problem was I got
tired pretty quick.
You might be told before surgery that an artificial opening called a
stoma will be created in your abdomen. You might be told that it definitely
will not be--or you might be told that the surgeon just won't know until
the abdomen is open, and the full extent of disease can be evaluated.
Just after surgery and for a day or so afterward, you may be too groggy
and sore to remember or to care whether you have a newly created stoma.
While you're recovering, the nursing staff will do the initial care for
you, until you're willing and able to do it on your own. Eventually you'll
be visited by a nurse--an enterostomal therapist, it is hoped--who will
help you learn how to clean the skin around the stoma, change the bag or
patch, and irrigate, if necessary. The stoma itself is self-cleaning, as it
is internal epithelial tissue that continually produces mucus.
If your hospital does not have an enterostomal therapist, contact the
United Ostomy Association at (800) 826-0826 for help. Colorectal cancer
survivors report both very good and very bad experiences regarding training
in ostomy care from nurses who are not specialists in enterostomy.
The United Ostomy Association has trained visitors who will talk to you and
help you feel better about what you've been through. Usually you don't have
anyone to talk to while you're in the hospital who's actually gotten an
ostomy. The biggest thing is that you need a live person to stand in front
of you, going, "Hey! There's life after surgery. You, too, can look
and act like nothing's different: at the spa, snorkeling, laying on the
beach--no more issues than I have sitting in the office all
Your first sight of your stoma may be profound, insignificant, or an
anticlimax. You may feel extremely relieved that cancerous tissue is
removed, and consequently you may feel grateful that ostomy saved your
life. You may be afraid to look at the stoma--and then relieved after you
have. You may be horrified. You may be sad or angry, or have feelings of
great loss. You may feel dirty, or you may be afraid that others will think
you are. You may feel much more interested in your abdominal incision,
which may be painful, than in the stoma. If all anal and rectal tissue was
removed--abdominoperineal resection--you may be fully occupied with doing
basic things, like sitting without pain, and inspecting the stoma will wait
Expect the stoma to look bright red and a bit swollen at first. As time
passes, it will shrink a bit, but distinct red coloration and continual
production of cleansing mucus are characteristic of a healthy stoma.
My ostomy is on the side of my navel, two inches to the right, and two
inches down. Mine's an ileostomy. It's in that general location because
there's a muscle wall there that stays pretty flat almost all the time.
It's a functionality point of view: the appliance glues on. You need a flat
surface for this, because what is called the wafer is a little bit flexible
but it usually doesn't bend in half. It'll bend a little, but the bottom
line is that the flatter, the more constant the surface that doesn't flex
too much, the better luck you'll have with the appliance staying
Expect the surgeon to inspect your stoma and preen over the good job
that was done. Surgeons have been perfecting ostomy since the days of
ancient Egypt, and are happy when it's perfectly round, protruding just a
quarter or a half-inch beyond the skin of the abdomen.
If you're being treated with chemotherapy for colorectal cancer, you
might also need to be hospitalized to treat infection.
About seven to ten days after certain chemotherapies are given, it's
common for your white blood cell counts to drop to dangerously low levels.
Without adequate numbers of white blood cells, the body cannot fight
If you're hospitalized for infection, most likely you'll be placed alone
in a hospital room, a procedure called isolation. The air may be scrubbed
with a high-energy particulate air (HEPA) filter or controlled via laminar
Although some studies have shown that infection during neutropenia most
often arises from pathogens already within the patient's body, restriction
of visitors, gifts, and certain foods will be enforced. For example:
- All who enter will be expected to adhere to safety measures such as
vigorous handwashing and covering the mouth with a mask.
- Gift plants with pollen-bearing stamens, potting soil, or silk plants
with mossy, fungus-bearing camouflage at their base may be returned or held
outside your room.
- Certain foods, such as fresh fruit or yeast breads, may be denied to
Isolation procedures may seem odd--after all, you're already
infected--but the goal is to prevent your coming in contact with additional
and potentially very serious infectious agents.
You'll be given oral or IV antibiotics, antivirals, or antifungals,
depending on your symptoms and the results of various cultures. You may
also be given drugs to help you grow new white or red blood cells.
You'll stay in isolation until your white blood cell counts rise and the
infection is bested, either by the antibiotics you're given, or by the
infection-fighting ability of your own increasing white blood cells.
Some chemotherapies are given in the hospital in order to simultaneously
administer additional agents that offset the damage to healthy organs, or
to monitor the state of affected organs. Examples are the use of Mesna to
prevent damage to the bladder when the anticancer agent cyclophosphamide is
used, and the administration of intraperitoneal chemotherapy.
The procedures used will vary, of course, depending on the agents being
given, but most likely you can expect an IV line to be inserted if you
don't have a permanent venous catheter, and you'll receive frequent and
perhaps somewhat embarrassing attention from nurses regarding normally
routine and personal phenomena such as blood pressure, how much urine or
feces you've passed, whether bowel movements are painful, and so on.
If copious oral or IV hydration accompanies your treatment, unless a
urinary catheter is in place, you'll be compelled to rise frequently to
urinate, and you may become quite tired owing to lack of a full night's
For certain subtypes of colorectal cancer that might have escaped from
the primary tumor site and spread along the lining of the abdomen,
injections of chemotherapy directly into the abdominal cavity, called the
peritoneal cavity, might be used. This treatment is called intraperitoneal
Access to the peritoneal cavity is achieved either by implanting several
tubes and drains during the surgery to remove the tumor, or during a
subsequent surgery, or by insertion of a catheter each time the treatment
Once tubing is in place, the administration of anticancer drugs may
begin as early as during surgery and continuing the day after for five days
while you are still hospitalized. The drugs are infused through the tubes,
left in place for many hours, then drained.
The medical staff administering the chemotherapy also may do imaging
studies such as CT scans during or after infusion to be sure that all areas
of the peritoneum are exposed to adequate amounts of anticancer
For those with rectal cancer, several types of radiation therapy usually
require a hospital stay. In addition to the more common treatment of rectal
cancer with external beam radiotherapy, radioactive substances also can be
- Implanting a radioactive material embedded in wires, seeds, capsules,
or needles permanently into rectal and surrounding tissue during the
surgery that removed the primary tumor or, less frequently, in a second
surgery (interstitial radiotherapy).
- Placing a small container housing a radioactive substance temporarily
inside the rectal cavity (brachytherapy).
This means that you might be hospitalized for a surgery to implant tubes
or small containers that will contain the radioactive substance.
If your implants are not permanent, a stay in a lead-shielded isolation
room might be necessary while radioactive materials are inserted, left in
place for a few minutes or a few days (depending on the dose required),
then removed. Containment measures will be engaged while the radioactive
substance is being handled, and while in place. Visitors will be limited,
kept at a distance of six feet, or forbidden altogether. Although hospital
staff will provide you with all the care you need, for their safety during
this time they must minimize their contact with you.
In order to avoid having implants shift, you might be asked to stay in
bed while the implants are in place.
Once the radioactive substance is removed, you are no longer a risk to
When treatment has ended, implants might be either left in place or
removed. Often, implants, tubes, or canisters that are temporary can be
removed with little or no pain at the end of treatment, but you should tell
the hospital staff if you are experiencing pain or discomfort during or
The rectum, perineum, and parts of the internal pelvis might be sore for
days or weeks following radiation therapy.
Very few people look forward to being hospitalized. The goal is to make
the stay short and successful by remembering that ultimately it's your
life, and, in spite of perhaps temporarily diminished capacities, you're
still very much in charge.
Here are several key points:
- Read your medical chart. Ask questions if anything is unclear. Ask for
definitions of terms the staff may use, such as NPO (noli para os,
or nothing by mouth). If you're not well enough to do this, have a friend
or relative do so.
- Verify all drugs and treatments given to you. Ask about oral
medications before swallowing, and read the contents of the IV bags on your
pole. If you're not well enough to do this, have a friend or relative do
- Tell the nursing staff right away if something seems wrong. Don't let
seemingly simple things, like feeling constipated, become major
- If you are permitted to get out of bed, move about your room and the
corridors as much as possible, especially if you've had surgery. You'll
heal faster and diminish the likelihood of serious complications if you
move about. If you feel too bad to get out of bed, flex your arms and legs
a good deal. If you're neutropenic, ask if you and your IV pole can cruise
the corridors wearing a mask and surgical slippers. (If you feel
conspicuous wearing a mask, you might try making a prank of it by adding a
toothy grin with waterproof ink.)
Additional ideas for dealing with your hospitalization follow:
- If you're not on a restricted diet, coerce friends and loved ones into
bringing you your favorite foods. This will make you feel better, and will
help those friends who would otherwise not know what to do feel useful and
loving. Most hospitals now permit outside food to be brought into the
patient's room, a change more in keeping with the European model of
families caring for patients. Bringing food will help family members feel a
part of your care if they are not permitted to do much else; for instance,
if their time with you is restricted during certain radiation therapy
- At first, take pain medication on schedule if it is prescribed, even if
you think you won't need it, because you'll heal better, and will be more
mobile, if pain is adequately controlled. As time passes, you'll be a
better judge of how much painkiller you really need.
- Befriend the staff. They'll repay you tenfold for your kindness. It's
surprising how much can be asked of others if it's done in a nice way.
- If you're a caretaker, pitch in and do what you can to help the nurses
help your loved one. Stay overnight if at all possible; if the staff
When my husband was hospitalized after his abdominal surgery, he was on
morphine which slowed his ability to urinate. Often during the night he
needed to use the john, and he and his IV pole would stand there in front
of the toilet doing not much of anything for ten or fifteen minutes.
Because I stayed with him overnight, I was able to help him in and out of
bed repeatedly without his calling a nurse.
Discharge may be an anticlimax after your hospital stay, but you should
use this time to have the staff answer all of your questions about
aftercare. Make sure you understand:
- First, whether you're really going to be able to handle being at home.
Hospitalization times vary based on the patient's condition and the type of
insurance in effect. If you feel you need to stay longer in the hospital
but your insurance policy limits your stay unless the doctor requests
otherwise, be sure to make your needs known to your doctor and the nursing
- If your spleen was removed, you should discuss with your doctor the
need to be revaccinated every few years with pneumococcal, Haemophilus
influenzae type B, and meningococcal vaccines. The risk of being
overwhelmed by agents capable of producing encapsulated infections is
higher in those lacking a spleen.
- The medications you may be taking. When you are discharged you probably
will be given a prescription for oral pain medicine, for example.
- Whether the hospital pharmacy can fill your prescriptions before you
leave. If not, get the doctor to phone your pharmacy, or get a family
member to fill them beforehand.
- How to care for your incision if you've had surgery.
- How to care for your stoma if you've had one created.
- What side effects or aftereffects you should watch for that might
signal a problem.
- What follow-up appointments should be scheduled, and any diet
- Your bill. Always ask for an itemized bill.
After surgery it would be best to set up a bed downstairs if you can. We
have a half bath downstairs, so the second day home I opted for a sponge
bath downstairs. After that, as long as I went slowly, stairs were fine.
Any way that you can make it easier for yourself, go for. I slept on the
sofa downstairs because it's cooler, and because I was worried if my hubby
tossed and turned too much my catheter, inserted at the same time as
resection surgery, would get jabbed by an elbow! After three or four days I
did move back upstairs and it was no problem--really.
But if you can set up downstairs very comfortably, that is probably best in
the beginning when you first get home.
The person helping you with your trip home should bring the car to the
exit in advance, and should make as many preliminary trips as necessary to
remove your personal effects and gifts from your room, perhaps warming or
cooling the car in advance as well. Most important, though, is that by
leaving you for last, your escort can devote attention to you alone as
you're exiting. This is a useful arrangement because you may need help
getting into the car, for example, but the hospital's assistance and
liability end at the door.
Use the restroom before you leave, even if you think you don't need to.
Even a small amount of stress on the trip home or cold temperatures, for
example, can cause the brain to signal the bladder or bowel to empty.
Most hospitals have a regulation stating that you must be escorted to
the door in a wheelchair. This reduces the chance that patients, possibly
weakened by extended bed rest, will pass out or suffer a mis-step while
exiting. While many people leaving the hospital find using a wheelchair
embarrassing, it safeguards both you and the hospital. Fortunately or
unfortunately, you'll have plenty of chances to prove you're mobile again
once you're out the door.
After many surgeries, one is restricted from driving for several weeks.
Certain activities such as climbing stairs may also be restricted. Full
recovery may take as long as six weeks and may include pronounced
After radiation therapy, you may be surprised to feel more tired over
time instead of less tired. This is normal and will reverse eventually. The
areas irradiated may feel sore or burnt for days or weeks after